For those of you studying theatre or just broadly interested, here are a few words about how we worked.
Extensively reading about water. Director, Kate Adams read widely around the subject of water, and then chose a different book for each of the key collaborators to read before the first residency. For Medie the choreographer, an introduction to the science of the water molecule; for Alexia Hell On High Water by Alistair McIntosh; Tom got Dark Ecologies by Timothy Morton. And everyone read the first part of How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley.
This was a way to open up lots of different ideas to feed our initial improvisations mixing together molecular science, politics, philosophy, myth, and explorations of the materiality and behaviour of water. We also had a couple of excursions, to marshes and to the sea.
2. Improvisation without Expectation!
Medie used the phrase ‘improvisation without expectation’ and it stuck. In our first week long residency (Thank you ARC Stockton!), there was no expectation that any anything would go in the final work. It was a week of freedom. At that stage there is very little conversation about material we produce. We just keep generating more and more stuff and of course videoing everything to look at later in the process.
We use task based and open improvisations including movement, storytelling, drawing, writing, music and games, and repetition with variation. Many of our initial improvisational forms are introduced in the public workshops we run alongside the show.
In the end of course, a lot of our ‘improvisation without expectation’ ended up right at the heart of the show!
Example instruction 1
Tell a story about water using these three words: rising, circles, drift.
Example instruction 2
Physical/musical improvisation: Do dew.
Example instruction 3
Example instruction 4
Write down all the water verbs you can think of.
Example instruction 5
Explore a moment in your relationship with water through a repeatable action.
3. Introducing Miklas: arts and science meet
Working with Professor Miklas Scholz has been very exciting, particularly as Miklas has been so open to trying new things.
It is a big step for a water resources engineer to perform in a theatre show: to learn lines, learn a dance and to fit into a different way of working.
We asked Miklas to write and speak about his research and childhood experiences of water, to do an experiment on stage and to join us in the improvisation games and group dialogues. Miklas approaches things in a very grounded, literal way and prefers not to have ambiguity. Having his more grounded perspective suits our work very well, because it keeps us balanced and allows us more space for ambiguity in other parts of the show. The contrasting modes of communication and the interweaving of different voices is central to the dramaturgy of the piece.
4. Weaving the text and devising
We mix devising and writing in the weaving together of the text and action. Kate wrote an initial draft after our initial workshops and the first two intensive residencies, then we worked together to improve it in the rehearsals that followed. The word weaving fits better than writing because so much of the material emerged in improvisation and structurally we are building something that weaves voices together rather than writing a fictional story with characters and dialogue.
Kate describes her work as ‘speculative nonfiction’: a way to heighten personae and relationships on stage; to explore different ways of connecting ideas and emotions, and to speculate or imagine ways of being together while still staging the realities of the world we live in.
You can learn more about her approach here as she talks to Write for the Stage about our process.